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Cousins sad to leave but ready to go

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RHT_0562.jpgEven as his foot was figuratively halfway out the door, DeMarcus Cousins took one step back to reflect on his time at Kentucky.

"I will never forget this part of my life," Cousins said Thursday in his farewell news conference at Kentucky. "This is probably one of the most precious times I've ever had. I've never been accepted like this and I just felt loved from day one."

Cousins' career at the University of Kentucky is officially over. Last week, the 6-foot-11, 270-pound forward signed with John Greig, an agent out of Seattle, effectively ending any possibility that he could return to Kentucky if he were to withdraw from the NBA Draft.

Like a young hatchling ready to take flight for the first time, Cousins said he was pushed out of the nest by head coach John Calipari and into the open air of the NBA. Cousins expressed sorrow in his decision to leave a place that saw him transform from an immature, unproven high school kid into a mature, NBA-ready player, but Cousins admitted it was time to move on.

"I have proven myself this year and right now my stocks are high and they believe this is the time for me to go," Cousins said. "Cal has been pushing me and telling me to go, and he's been like that with all of his other players and they haven't proven him wrong.

"He told me it was my time to go."

Cousins scored 575 points in his first and only season at UK, second most in school history (fellow freshman John Wall set the record with 616 points). The big man from Mobile, Ala., averaged 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, notching 20 double-doubles on the season, the fourth most in single-season history at UK.

"Boogie," as Cousins was affectionately nicknamed, was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and an All-American.

And yet he will always be remembered as the lovable, eccentric 6-11 teddy bear that helped redefine UK basketball and reestablish its national prominence.

Cousins, sitting at a table in front of reporters and UK Athletics staff that included Calipari and assistant coach Orland Antigua, looked like a man torn between his decision to stay or go. Ultimately, though, the risk of injury and the chance to be a top-five NBA pick proved to be too enticing.

"The people here and the coaching staff made it easy to adjust and I've never been accepted like this," Cousins said. "Everywhere here just felt like family."

Cousins may best be remembered for his unique personality.

Upon his arrival, Cousins was a misunderstood player characterized by some as lazy, childish and a "thug." The labels couldn't have been more wrong.

In between the ushanka, the Peter Parker glasses, phone tag with the Mississippi State fan base, the cut-ups with the media (one could go on and on and on), people began to see the person beneath the chiseled layer of muscle and tattoos.

Maybe it was just a change of environment or the setting of college. Whatever it was, Cousins grew up and blossomed into a star at Kentucky.

To say he'll be unforgettable would be stating the obvious.

Even as he tried to explain his decision for leaving, Cousins couldn't resist from giving the media a few more pieces of gold to work with. When asked what the first thing he would buy for himself with his first big paycheck, Cousins said it wouldn't be some fancy, decked-out car. Why not?

"Because I don't have a license," Cousins said to the laughter of everyone in the room.

Cousins may have the keys to the good life, but he said he'll never forget his time at Kentucky, vowing to return to the school long after the buzz he created subsides.

As the next crop of Kentucky greats get ready to take the place of him, Cousins was asked what advice he would give to players that could potentially be one and one like him.

"If you come to Kentucky, you're going to love it," Cousins said. "I don't know about any other school, but you'll love it here."

The love affair was mutual.

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If Cousins hates to leave us let me just say we sure hate to see him go. He has been awesome all year and we grew to love him and all he did for us but mostly just because he is a great young man. Good luck in the pros but please keep your promise to come back, maybe in a few years as an assistant coach huh?

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  • Lucy Oaks: If Cousins hates to leave us let me just say we sure hate to see him go. He has been read more